Friday, May 29. 2015
I've never met Kemberlee Kaye either online or in person. I know people online who know her in person and vouch for her as being quality of the highest order, which is more than good enough for me. Of her personally I know little other than what she's detailed in assorted website and social media bios. She's married, I think. I know she's Catholic, and she lives in Texas. I don't know if she's a lawyer, but she has worked in some capacity in the legal system. She writes for the excellent Le·gal In·sur·rec·tion blog among other conservative online publications. That's all I've got. Which is fine.
A few days ago, at Le·gal In·sur·rec·tion Ms. Kaye posted some notes under the title Leave Michelle Obama's workout video alone. Quoting from same:
Objectively Mrs. Obama’s workout video was just that — an informative workout video. Void of political message or any other evil left-wing plot to undermine the Republic, thousands flocked to mock the First Lady’s quite strenuous workout regimen.
Political vitriol is nothing new. What has changed in the past fifteen years or so is the incessant reproving of, with the Internet's ever growing presence in most all aspects of our lives, its synchronized beauty and horror: fortunately, everyone can get online; unfortunately, so can anyone. No longer are political debates relegated to the local newspaper for editors and letter writers to hash out any given topic. Now, we have blog comments. The following are among those left on Ms. Kaye's post:
Barack Hussein Obama and Michelle LaVaugn Robinson-Obama “…remain as human and “like us” as the next family.”
I don’t hate that commie, racist, criminal, affirmative action hermaphrodite any more than it hates me.
She wanted attention.
And these are among the remaining comments. Many far more brutal ones have been deleted.
There are two primary reasons why I seldom blog about politics anymore. A little backstory before continuing: I am a Christian first, meaning that unless I prefer being an utter hypocrite I acknowledge being a sinner, saved by grace brought about by the shed blood of Christ on the cross as a sacrifice for my sins and His triumphant physical resurrection from the dead; and I am a federalist second, meaning that politically I hold the Constitution to be the supreme inviolable law of the land and always to be strictly, literally interpreted with a corresponding limited government. In short, I'm a classic liberal as defined by Hayek and socially conservative, meaning I despise both political parties and am in no way a libertarian regardless of my aforementioned belief in limited government due to the current definition of libertarian being someone who worships the trinity of Ayn, Ron, and Rand in-between toking up sessions. Also, I believe no one is beyond the redemptive power of Jesus while simultaneously knowing there is genuine evil, and are genuinely evil, people in the world who must be opposed.
With this in mind, it should come as zero surprise I am as politically opposed to the Obama administration's policies and philosophy as it gets. I despise excessive government spending, with its corresponding deficits and crushing tax burden, regardless of how superficially noble the cause may be; for private investment and competition between businesses create near infinitely better results than government's hamfisted blundering in most every enterprise. Dovetailed into this is fierce opposition to excessive governmental regulation, including full-bore takeover, of what should be private industries regulated by free market vying for business by providing the best combination of goods and/or services such as health insurance. I cannot abide a foreign policy that coddles ideological enemies of freedom while backhanding fellow democratic countries such as Israel. I have no tolerance for the demonization of those who achieve wealth through hard work and calculated risktaking. To summarize, I am not a Democrat.
That said, I hold no personal animosity for the Obamas. Given the opportunity I would cheerfully read them both the Riot Act, detailing why they are in grave error in so many areas. I would also illustrate for them as best I could, in deed as well as word, how to truly follow Christ mandates humility, compassion, and active care on a personal level. The perhaps apocryphal story concerning a statue of the Christ having its hands broken off yet not replaced, but rather commemorated with a plaque affixed to the statue's base reading, "I have no hands but yours," while far oversimplifying and to a degree downplaying Jesus through the Spirit's direct working in our lives contains a kernel of truth. If not us who believe, who? If not with all, with who?
There is no witness in vitriol or vacillation. The steadfast refusal to compromise principals and/or Christ's commands for His followers must reign paramount. The Prince of Peace must trump politics each and every time. There are no options for behaving differently, no outs based on the behavior of others regardless of their behavior's contemptibility. That a post such as Ms. Kaye's is needed is a sad commentary on those with whom I ostensibly have so much in common. Their reaction to said post is sadder. This is the first reason why I seldom discuss politics these days.
The second is conservative new media's omnipresent ennui. Every time and everywhere you look, it is the exact same puny handful of voices saying the exact same things to the exact same crowd for the exact same reaction: cry outrage! and let slip the tweets of butthurt. What, a liberal said something outlandish or offensive? We must take offense! The mainstream media pushing an agenda? We must snarl and snark! It is nothing but shadowplay; an eternal play to the crowd for the paycheck, a preaching to the choir while accepting a generous love offering from the congregation. It changes nothing. It moves nothing. It changes and moves no one. It is the Oakland of punditry. There's no there there. It is an utter waste of time to read, let alone create. And I do not have time to waste.
These things are why I don't get around much politically anymore.
Tuesday, May 26. 2015
There are certain things we learn, or at least hopefully learn, as we pass through the years. A prime example of this is coming to grips with how we are best advised accepting the fact that we should not expect respect for our anger, this coming into play the first time during our tender years any of us throw a temper tantrum without reaping the hoped for reward. Unless a spanking was that for which we had a honkering.
We also learn, or should learn, to not expect respect for our tears, or reciprocation for our love. These are far more difficult to swallow. We are taught from the beginning to respect others, to honor the heralded awesome power of love, and that true love always triumphs while conquering all and overcoming all obstacles. Yet through bitter and often embittering experience we learn how love is often impotent, incapable of swaying others in any direction let alone one which we desire. Those who do not learn this, such as starry-eyed women unshakable in their pursuit of utterly undesirable men believing they can transform jerks into jewels, invariably have their ship of hopes dashed against reality’s rocks. You’d think this would be sufficient to teach us, but far too often we embody insanity by attempting the exact same thing while anticipating different results. The Biblical truism that pride goes before a fall is not exclusively reserved for the outwardly arrogant. It also applies to those of us who, while outwardly modest and/or well-intentioned, sadly overestimate our own ability.
It hurts when love isn’t returned. The illustration of a rejected Savior is hard to understand until we encounter a one-sided love of our own. The other person doesn’t look at you in a special way. He or she doesn’t soften when you’re around. He or she isn’t interested in a relationship on any level save perhaps that of casual acquaintance, one quickly forgotten the moment close proximity is no longer in effect. Perhaps the person does allow you to approach them, but even then only within his or her strictly defined and absolute, non-negotiable parameters. Held at arm’s length? Most definitely. Held in each other’s arms? Never. And yes, it makes life a living hell. An accurate description, for hell’s torment is not fire and brimstone, but rather separation from love.
The illustration in Scripture’s most misunderstood and misapplied chapter states that when I was a child, I spoke, thought, and acted like a child; in adulthood laying these childish things aside. It seems strange to think, believe, and act on the notion that there are times when laying love aside is an act of maturity. More accurately, not so much setting love itself on the shelf but learning how to be at peace with the fact others can and will disregard your love for them.
It hurts when love isn't returned. There is no escaping, no denying the pain. If there is anything good to be drawn from these times, it is from the empathy gained for those also suffering; and how it makes more real our need to embrace -- more accurately, allow ourselves to be embraced by -- the nail-scarred hands belonging to the Man of Sorrows well aquainted with grief. He knows. He understands. He comforts. And He never rejects our love.
Monday, May 25. 2015
My oldest brother, who fought in Vietnam, passed away a few years ago. He didn't say much about his time there.
This is the text of a letter he sent our late father, who himself fought in World War Two and Korea, in November 1966.
This is Memorial Day.
What I am going to say will be most unpleasant, but we just spent a hell of a night up here at Tai Ninh. Here’s what happened.
At 9:00, the Viet Cong hit our position with heavy mortar, recoilless rifle, and rifle grenade fire. We hit the bunker and stayed until 10:15 when the attack was over. A flare ship started illuminating the sky, but one was a dud. It hit the aviation section tent, but it hit a man who had been in Vietnam less than a month. The force practically scalped him, and the flare ignited. The man was killed instantly. I ran over there, just after the attack with a jug of water to help put out the fire caused by the flare. Quite a bit of damage was done to the inside of the tent. Men with fire extinguishers and me with my water jug (which had just been filled) tried to put out the flare (which is next to impossible.) The flare started exploding, so we hit the ground. After that, somebody said that a man was hurt badly. I went over to see if he needed some water, but he was dead when I got there. The sight was unnerving.
We finally hit the sack after midnight. Then at two o’clock in the morning, they really mortared us. We lost twelve men, WIA, two seriously (Both should live.) A mortar round landed three feet from our communications tent and RTT van. The attack lasted until three-thirty. After the attack, I was detailed to wash the blood from the inside of the RTT van. I won’t go into any gory details of either event.
I came out without a scratch. I did not panic nor was there any extreme fear on my part. One never knows how he will react to an emergency.
Our battery suffered 25% casualties during the attack. I am all right, and they moved heavy artillery in this morning, 155mm SP howitzers, to protect against another attack tonight. We should get some sleep tonight. I hope that I never have to write another letter like this again. The danger has passed, so be thankful that I pulled through OK, and go to Aunt Beth & Hazel’s house for Thanksgiving. You have a lot to be thankful for.
My brother was a classical music buff, who reluctantly accepted I was Mr. Rock 'n' Roll. One day, he asked me if Billy Joel had served in Vietnam, to which I replied he hadn't, asking my brother why he asked. He replied because this song so perfectly captured what it was like there.
Wednesday, April 1. 2015
(Written for a friend.)
Hey there. You know that guy? Sure you do. We all know that guy. You know -- the nice guy.
Great guy, the nice guy. The nice guy is always there when you need him. Need some advice, someone to lend an ear, maybe a shoulder to cry on? The nice guy is there for you. Every time.
But ... well, you know. He's just the nice guy. Nothing exciting. Nothing special. Good guy, sure. Great guy, really. But he's ... well, he's the nice guy. That's all.
You don't hang out with the nice guy: don't go out for drinks, don't include him with the gang when you go out for dinner. None of that. I mean, let's face it. The nice guy isn't all that exciting. He's probably got plans anyway, or something to do. No need to ask him to participate.
Wait ... what's that? A date? Are you kidding? No way! The nice guy doesn't set off sparks. No sizzle. Oh, he's good for comfort when the boyfriend goes wrong. But to actually be the boyfriend? Are you crazy? He's just the nice guy. No way could he be Mr. Right. Just no way. Besides, what if you did date him and things went wrong? Who would you turn to? No, can't risk it. Gotta keep him at arm's length.
The nice guy will understand when you explain it to him. You're sure he'll meet some nice girl someday that's more his speed. It's nothing personal. It's nothing against him. But ... well, he simply doesn't fit into your world like that. Yeah, he could probably make some girl happy. He's the nice guy. But it's not you. No, it never could be you.
Still, sometimes you wonder about the nice guy. Every once in a while the smile seems a little forced, the eyes a bit distant. And he does seem to be alone a lot.
Well, he probably prefers it that way. He's fine. Of course the nice guy is fine. Isn't he always the first with the quip, the first one there for you when you need someone? He's fine. We all have our off days. He's fine where he is. He must get his happiness from helping others. He must be fine. He's the nice guy.
Although come to think of it, don't see him much anymore ...
Sunday, March 15. 2015
A phrase oft heard during any given sporting event where the heavily favored team finds itself on the score's short end is "the other team practices too." Meaning: nothing is a given and no matter how talented, or better on paper, someone or a collection of someones is than the competition, if you dismiss the other team out of hand and don't compete up to your ability level you will not win. Ever.
The same principle applies to life. We all have our burdens and battles; our private little hell that can and all too frequently does consume us. These must be tended to, otherwise they can severely damage us. Sometimes irrecoverably.
This duly noted, it is easy but dangerously shortsighted to exclusively focus on our own situation, neglecting to note that the other person has problems too. John Donne was right; no one is an island. We all have oppressive elements besetting our every day and every step.
To behave as though we alone are suffering while everyone else is on their own under the veneer of "they know their problems and I don't" is pathetically short-sighted. Empathy is not contingent on complete understanding of someone else's pain. We are all human, and we all share humanity's common threads.
It is equally short-sighted, with a hefty dose of narcissism on the side, to focus so heavily on our own problems while neglecting to value others sufficiently to, at the least, inquire as to how they are doing that our life becomes a one-note samba of "woe is me." The other person hurts too. Their hurt is equally important as ours. Ignoring them while bemoaning our state helps no one. It makes the other person quite apt to wonder why they should help, or care for, us when our actions and words make it apparent our concern for them extends only as far as their willingness to feel sorry for us. And, simply put, in such a scenario we are doing more than enough feeling sorry for ourselves to where the other person has zero inclination to join our pity party regardless of how deeply they care for us. We are pushing them away at a time when we most need them.
The other person matters too. Ask them how they are doing. You will be surprised how much it helps you both face the wounds and scars we all -- all -- bear.
Friday, September 12. 2014
Something touched on in the previous post is the notion of cultural relevancy, or if you prefer engaging the culture. A common cry amongst the conservative new media echo chamber ... er, realm is the need to actively pursue entry into popular culture via the assorted reigning entertainment mediums -- music, television, film. The irony of how this is most often discussed within closed circles is apparently lost on those thus engaged with talking about engagement but never doing anything that can in any fashion be construed as genuine outreach. But I digress.
One of the greatest challenges facing anyone who seeks to influence pop culture is that despite its apparent pervasiveness, even for the biggest names it is surprisingly limited in its at least initial outreach. Take as an example U2, its record label, and Apple's agreement to make what is easily the biggest band in the world's new album available for free to everyone with an iTunes account, number of same being some 500 million. How many thus far (the deal was announced this past Tuesday) have taken advantage of the offer, said offer being mentioned and promoted by virtually every media and medium in existence? Around two million. This for a band that has sold over 150 million albums in its career. The days when The Beatles could change the world with the change of a hairstyle are long gone.
Another example of pop culture's limited appeal is at the movies. The general rule of thumb is that a movie with $100M in box office business is a success, bloated special effects-laden outings that cost more than $200M to make not withstanding. But how many people, as in individual ticket sales, see a blockbuster movie? The biggest movie this year to date is Guardians of the Galaxy, with an as of yesterday estimated domestic box office take of $297.8M. Translated into ticket sales, the best guess is that comes out to 35.7M tickets sold. Figuring there is quite probably a good percentage of repeat viewers ... you get the idea. A large number, but not universal. Also, factor in the film's built-in mass audience appeal from the Marvel Comics/Disney connection, the tens if not hundreds of millions spent promoting the film, and so on. This isn't a film designed for viewership at your local art cinema; something to give you cause for reflection and discussion. It is mass market product, designed to sell tickets and merchandise.
Paraphrasing Shakespeare, pop culture is sound and fury; tales told by an idiot, signifying nothing. This is the entirety of pop culture: a soap bubble, momentarily pretty but fatally fragile, inevitably popping to be seen no more and quickly forgotten in favor of the next bubble blown.
Yet despite this, enter into the pop culture fray we must. We have examples of what happens when we withdraw behind our walls; witness the utter failure of the evangelical American church, despite its size, to have any impact on society. Certainly the odds are stacked against us. We do not have multi-multi-million dollar promotional budgets at our disposal, nor will we have industry support no matter how potentially profitable our efforts may be. However, the need to reach people remains paramount. We cannot sit idly by, barking at the caravan as it moves on, then believe we are accomplishing something by barking. At least not if we are being honest. If we reach but a few, we have done far better than if we reach none at all.
We also have to be honest with ourselves. Echo chamber jingoism is great at rallies of like-minded people but utterly useless when presented to the general public. Be they ever so superficial and slick, pop culture successes convey whatever message they offer with sufficient skill to penetrate multiple societal layers. Clumsy cliches need not apply. Lee Greenwood already did "God Bless The USA." There is neither need nor room for a sequel.
Now, promoting conservative artists in whatever field immediately presents a problem, that being dealing with artists. Most -- not all, but most -- creative people are fundamentally insane and correspondingly hard to handle. Why this is so is seldom understood by those not similarly gifted, or for that matter many of those who are gifted. To be an artist of any genuine skill means, regardless of whether it is acknowledged, that one has opened him or herself to the creative spirit that is a direct gift from God. When human (that's us) is touched by divine (that's the Man Upstairs), simultaneously beautiful and terrible things happen. The beautiful is what is created; the terrible is how such overwhelming intimacy with the Creator can all too easily drive a person mad as in our limited human state we can only handle so much beyond ourselves. There is also the pain factor; Bono was completely accurate when he sang every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief; all kill their inspiration and sing about the grief. Little Miss Sunshine would have been a lousy artist.
So, these are the challenges facing anyone who wishes to engage the culture. It is expensive, it is an insular world that does not take kindly to outsiders with views outside its hedonistic hyper-liberal own, and the people best equipped artistically to enter the fray are often borderline, if not full-fledged, self-destructive lunatics. Yet engage we must, for there is far too much at stake to let things go as they are.
Thursday, September 11. 2014
So, after an extended silence that I oft doubted would ever end, I'm back. Had to blow the dust off my password and sweep the cobwebs out of the site, but thankfully it and I are still here.
Choosing a topic on which to hang my return was a tad difficult; it's not like there's a dearth of available points of discussion. That duly noted, one demanded immediate attention, that being blogging itself.
Blogging is in danger of becoming the compact disc of social media. It's a marvelous medium through which to communicate, but in today's world it is rapidly being superseded by Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Why? Brevity and immediacy. The other formats are quick, easy, and instantly before your intended audience. A blog? Well, since no one uses RSS feeds anymore, you have to tell people new content is there (and tell them and tell them and tell them), then hope people will step away from Twitter and Facebook et al long enough to pay your site a visit. The hip and hot social media vessels have apps for most every mobile device. A blog depends on someone opening their browser and entering the address at least once, hopefully bookmarking it while there so it can be more easily accessed should return visits be part of someone's online media consumption strategy.
Another problem bloggers face in attracting and keeping, along with growing, an audience is the deep level of funk out there about bloggers individually and collectively being unable to get over themselves. Delusion of glory and grandeur abound. It's high time bloggers individually and collectively get back to basics and what made blogging a vital communication form.
Blogging works only when you remember it's one voice, one opinion; consider it as you will. When you're blogging, remember it's a venue to express your thoughts and opinions on any given subject. That's all. You are not going to save the world. Hopefully, prayerfully you can help open eyes and minds to truth. Be content with that, as it is futile to frustrate yourself by striving for more when there is no more to be obtained.
When blogging, be yourself and be real. Say your piece, and be at peace. Be consistent with what you say. Be consistent with who you are. Let your words reflect who you are. Don't be one person online and another away from the computer.
Blog not for social media fame or accolades. Blog from and for the heart; the belief what you have to say can help other people. The echo chamber is already full, and it is not accepting applications. You don't need it or its residents for validation.
Blogging for a paycheck is not blogging; it's casual format column writing. Nothing wrong with that, but let's be honest about what it is. Far, far too many people pass themselves off as bloggers when they are nothing of the kind. Working toward monetizing your blog is not a shame, but should you start straying from yourself and the reasons why you first started blogging you are going down the wrong path.
When blogging, always remember this: no matter what, never, never become what you profess to oppose. You say you're a citizen journalist speaking truth to power at professional journalists living in ivory towers? Don't live in one yourself. You say you're against punditry elitism, where writers speak only to others in the same profession? Don't do the same thing. You say you're too busy to answer your emails; that there's just not enough time in the day to get everything done? Too bad. It's your job.
If you want the "glory" of being a popular blogger, you have to do the necessary work. That involves far more than writing blog posts. To be a successful blogger means you embrace the belief that blogging is a communication tool from one person to another. Every individual who reads one of your blog posts is an individual, and deserves to be treated as such. Unless it's a troll -- and not everyone who disagrees with something you say is one -- when someone communicates with you, communicate back. They've taken the time to read and respond to your writing. Simple, common courtesy dictates you do the same.
Again, unless it's a troll, answer your emails. Every time. Respond to tweets and Facebook posts. Every time. It takes very little time to type a simple "thank you." Do it.
The wise blogger does not see him or herself as a great written orator, or leader of people. The wise blogger does not see him or herself as one blessing teeming throngs with every word of wisdom that comes from their fingertips. The wise blogger sees him or herself as a retail clerk whose livelihood depends on the quality of service they provide all who come by.
Think about the pleasant retail experiences you have had. What is the common thread that connects all of these times? Invariably, part or all of it was interaction with a worker who was friendly, personable, knowledgeable, and genuinely helpful.
As it is in retail, so it is in blogging. The blogger who treats their audience with respect and as a welcomed guest will succeed. The blogger who treats their audience with disdain, or believes its sole purpose is to praise their words of wisdom, will fail.
We say we must change the culture. Well, culture change happens one person at a time. Culture change happens when you reach one person, one heart and mind, with ideas that helps them see things in a new light. Culture change comes when we talk with people, not to them.
Be a positive force for change. Treat people as you yourself wish to be treated. This includes blogging. Interact with your readers as you yourself wish other writers would interact with you. Not as a haughty lord, but rather as an equal.
To summarize, please remember the four tenets of the blogging evangel.
First, the ability to broadcast your opinion neither elevates nor validates said opinion.
Second, blog from, and for, the heart; not a paycheck.
Third, answer your email. Every time.
Fourth, and most important of all, never become what you profess to oppose. Never.
May I always follow these tenets.
Saturday, February 22. 2014
April Thompson is one of the most beautiful women I know. This conclusion is drawn not from her looks, although she is very attractive. Rather, it is from how she is deeply and passionately in love with God, her husband, and their kids. That is a beauty no Sports Illustrated model, save one who possesses the same qualities, can ever hope to approach.
In-between sessions of her very full-time gig known as raising the rugrats, April is wont to pen assorted thoughts in her blog. Her most recent post nicely expresses a frustration oft voiced by creative Christians, that being how a segment of American Christianity instantly recoils in horror the moment an artist, in any given medium, attempts crossing over from the Christian marketplace into the big bad satanic secular cesspool:
As Christians, we have to be careful not to be mindless consumers of whatever is served in the name of entertainment. But you know what's not good? Hiding in our little Christian or conservative ghettos, yelling nasty things at the world from the walls, and throwing stones at anyone who tries to take the message outside the gates. Ya know, like Jesus said to.
Mrs. Thompson continues the point by bringing it into the political realm. She mentions how many conservatives (she is unapologetically one) are so conditioned to a knee-jerk response and blanket condemnation of most everything pop culture-wise, completely hung up on an artist’s political bent regardless of whether it carries over into their art, they disassociate themselves from everything under the mantle of avoiding anything “unclean.” This takes the form of not supporting via buying a CD or download or movie ticket or what have you any individual not on their side of the political aisle, along with, when discussing said artists among those of like mind, participating in a top-this game of who can trash-talk them the most. Because, you know, that will win the culture war every time.
She’s too young to remember, but Steve Taylor brilliantly skewered this mindset some time ago:
Life for the believer is neither a scenario of doing whatever one wishes (sorry, libertarians) or hiding in a reverse leper colony. It is a call to the reality of Christ and life in Christ. It is personal holiness combined with mandatory outreach to others. Jesus was not a drunkard, yet He drank and His first recorded miracle was at a wedding reception when He changed water into wine so as to keep the party going. He associated, without compromise, with society’s outcasts. He didn’t tow the religious progressive’s continually shifting line of relative morality, telling them everything was cool and they could continue on their merry way without repercussion. He loved them where they were at while calling on them to change first their heart, and from that change their life. He didn’t commend the adulteress whose life He saved from the crowd seeking to entrap Him by what He said should be done with her, knowing full well the penalty for her actions under Mosaic law was that she was to be executed by stoning. He didn’t condemn her either. He offered her life with the admonition to leave her life of sin.
There is a powerful witness in the polite destruction of clichés. Systematically execute them by living life among other people in a Godly manner. Contrary to some opinions, living a Godly life does not mean acting like you are God, nor does it mean shoving your faith down the throat of another, nor does it mean never speaking up for fear of “offending” someone. It means tearing down the false image of what constitutes a believer by being both the human being you were created as and the child of God you were created to be.
There are no magic formulas for this; no superdeeduper secret initiation rites, magic words or self-induced guilt trips about what you should or shouldn’t do to say the magic words in response to which God will give you a hundred blessings. There is honesty, with yourself, others and especially God.
There are stones in the road. You will trip and fall. You will fail. You will know hurt, frustration, despair, rejection, grief, and anger. But you will also know what it means to truly be alive.
To be alive is to live, with all of life’s joys and sorrows.
You cannot hide from life. You can live life.
If others think you are crazy for doing so, so be it.
Wednesday, October 10. 2012
My knowledge of Dawn Eden, newly ensconced at Patheos, consists of having read a few of her blog posts and assorted interviews. I know the thumbnail sketch of her life: former rock journalist (and by her own admission a bit of a slut) who after Christ entered her life gave up sex and rock’n'roll in favor of pursuing Catholic academic pursuits and preaching the virtues of being virtuous, particularly in the chastity realm. I’m pretty sure Pope Benedict XVI has her on speed dial for any and all theological questions, she’s so deep into pursuing knowledge. But I digress.
Given that Eden (actually it’s Goldstein, but she uses her middle name as her last) last wrote about rock in 2000 or thereabouts, it’s possible she might be familiar with Canadian guitar rock band the Tragically Hip which made its recorded debut in 1987. The Hip, as the band’s fans refer to the quintet, is a long-running institution in its native land, routinely topping the charts and selling out (what else?) hockey arenas from coast to coast, while in the United States it is a solid cult favorite.
I rather doubt Eden rushed out to buy the CD of, or download, Now For Plan A, the Tragically Hip’s latest album which hit the streets last week. I have no idea what kind of music she listens to these days; whether she avoids rock because of past connections, if it doesn’t bother her, if she simply doesn’t care for the music anymore or whatever it may be. On the surface there’s no discernible connection between her traditional Catholicism and band leader Gord Downie’s often inscrutable stream of consciousness lyrics that offer fragments and disconnected threads, almost defying the listener to discern what is being said. Yet whether intentionally or coincidentally, in his latest musings Downie amplifies part of Eden’s thoughts on relationships. To wit:
Baby, when’d you get so Zen?
And we don’t want to do it
Do we give our bodies to each other for the sake of momentary pleasure that fades the moment we’re done? Or do we give ourselves to Christ the Bridegroom, letting His intense love for His bride the church, a love so great He gave His life for us, shine through us even as a man and woman’s love for each other shines through them as they pledge themselves solely to each other?
Do we celebrate sex’s holy and pure nature as not only the means of creating the next generation, but as a symbol of His love by giving ourselves fully and completely to our sole soulmate? Or do we debase it by turning it into a carnival game with empty orgasms and conquests as our prize?
Which do we choose? Do we choose to do it? Or do we choose to be it?
(It’s worth noting the lyric also brings up the issue of why conservatives and Christians routinely fail to support fellow conservatives and Christians, such as Mark Scudder, in the arts. It’d be far preferable, and I say this as a huge Tragically Hip fan, to have artists on our side we can point to for this illustrations without everyone in unison replying “who?”)
A lyric further along in the song warrants mention:
And all our friends gave us a week
To be it, no merely do it. That’s a goal worth aiming towards.
Friday, July 7. 2006
The northern edge of Indianapolis is much like the outskirts of many big cities these days, a recent absorption of farmland now buried underneath strip malls and lookalike housing developments. The usual satellite suburbs dot the landscape, enclaves for yuppiefied office dwellers who strive to be in the city but not of it. It’s tempting to subscribe to the cynic’s voice and decry the scene as ersatz country living, but such smug generalizations are as shallow as the man-made parks developers insist on building in such areas in lieu of preserving the patches of nature that were already there, legacies of the soil workers who handed down the land through generations until the current one cashed in their family history for a piece of Starbucks culture. Such places are what their residents make them to be, and should they choose SUVs and latte living, it is their right.
On one of the straight-edge streets that pass for major thoroughfares in such places, one sees what one expects to see: impressive homes separated from the road by massive front yards that make even the stoutest lawn tractor earn its keep, the occasional school here, the odd store or gas station or apartment complex for yuppie wannabes there. A few yards away from an intersection, a driveway somewhat wider than the norm presents itself, flanked on both sides by stonework signs bearing bronze plaques announcing the location.
Oaklawn Memorial Gardens.
The gravesite of Kenny Irwin Jr.
We were there on a sunny Saturday afternoon in late September of 2001, my brother and I. In all honesty I shouldn’t have been there at all, so far from my California home. The horror of September 11th had caused me to cancel a business trip to Atlanta that week, thereby also eliminating a plan to swing through Indiana on my way back. However, family must come before all, so I reached into my own pocket to pay for a weekend flight so I could fulfill my promise to visit my mother and oldest brother after the now-abandoned trip.
It had already been a long day for my brother and I, starting with my first visit to our beloved father’s grave since his passing away in May of 1999. The emotions were still raw as a few hours later we made our way from sleepy Greencastle through thirty miles of quiet farms and tiny towns until we reached our destination. We both noted earlier in the journey having glimpsed what would be the next day’s eagerly anticipated place of visitation: the RCA Dome, where I would finally see my Colts play a home game. However, this was for tomorrow. Today was for another purpose, a purpose that as soon as I knew I was going to Indiana became a personal obligation owed to someone I had never known.
The pleasant woman inside the cemetery office smiled at my inquiry as she handed me a map and circled our destination. We walked up the path she told us to take, commenting how the relative newness of the cemetery — it was opened in the early ’50s — left it minus the ostentatious crypts that marked most Indiana graveyards, which usually date back to the nineteenth century. It could have used some more trees, but it was impeccably maintained; all in all as pleasant a place as could be designed given its thankless task.
We continued up the gently curving path, following the map as it led to a tree isolated in a small island marking where the path became two. All was quiet; with the exception of one car off in the distance we had the place to ourselves. We went to the left, walked a few more yards, and then left the path by stepping onto the thick green grass, quietly gazing upon the brass markers below. A few more feet, and we had arrived. Now absolutely silent, we saw what I had come two thousand miles to see. Rather, not what, but who.
Kenny Irwin Jr.’s grave marker is a simple bronze slab. A photograph of an awkwardly smiling youth is mounted underneath a glass seal, with a swinging bronze cover providing additional protection from the elements. Some mention is made of his racing career, but no listing of his accomplishments is given: USAC Sprint Car Rookie Of The Year in 1993, USAC Silver Crown Car Rookie Of The Year in 1994, USAC Midget Car Champion in 1996, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Rookie Of The Year in 1997, NASCAR Winston Cup Rookie Of The Year in 1998. Instead, prominence is given to personal traits: son, brother, friend. Then and only then, race car driver. Beneath this, words from a hymn: “Our God is an awesome God, He reigns from heaven above with wisdom, power and love.”
Some crumbling mementos lay at the top of the marker, left there by the loving few. A 42, the car number he drove when he died, cut out by hand of white rubber and sitting on a base of oval discs in the colors of the Bell South sponsored car that was his. A faded photograph of a broadly smiling young woman, wearing her obviously hand painted “happy birthday Kenny” t-shirt. A weathered Winners Circle logo pin. Last and most touching of all, a handmade child’s bracelet, its string broken, spelling out I MISS YOU KENNY 42. I knelt down and carefully moved the bracelet, rearranging its message into place where the letters had begun to shift out of line.
So why was I here? I had already dealt that day with visiting the most personal, painful burial place imaginable. Why remind myself of others’ loss? And I wasn’t there because I was a Kenny Irwin Jr. fan. Oh, he seemed like a nice enough kid; I remember a brief appearance he made on QVC once during the Batman and Joker special paint scheme promotion he ran with then-teammate Dale Jarrett where he came off as polite, well-spoken and pleasant. But a fan? No. That wasn’t why I was here. Paying respects to a member of the sport I dearly love? Possibly, but there are many other fallen drivers to who I could go and pay my respects. So why was I here? Why was I now fighting tears?
I knew why.
It was the right thing to do.
When Kenny Irwin Jr. died in an accident during practice at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July seventh of 2000, the racing community and overwhelming majority of fans who before that day had derided him as a hack driver who shouldn’t be in a Winston Cup car collectively clucked their tongues, said “gee what a shame,” and then checked their schedule to see what time the race would start that Sunday. There was no tribute lap, no silence at lap 42, no one holding up four and two fingers as they stood to honor him. No massive floral displays of his car number, no one wearing his team hat, no plans for a memorial in his home town, and other than small stickers on the cars during the next race, no mention that he had ever been alive. There was no intense study of the fatal accident, no safety mandates from NASCAR as a result of the crash. No one — no one — save his team owner Felix Sabates and to the surprise of many Tony Stewart, Irwin’s arch rival across the dirt tracks of Indiana where they both honed their craft, seemed to really care all that much that a young man was dead.
Long after the fact, an embittered Kenny Irwin Sr. spoke. He told of the people he never knew existed who had contacted him after his son’s death, telling him of his son’s generosity and charity work on their behalf. He talked about how this news surprised him not in his son having done so, but in that his son, not only a son but also a best friend, had never mentioned he was doing these things. He spoke of the pride he felt the day in 1997 his son was announced as the driver starting the following year of the #28 Texaco car, the car made famous by the late Davey Allison and then Ernie Irvan. He talked about how his son took his eventual dismissal from the ride far better than he did, reassuring his Dad that it’d be all right. Above all, he spoke of his son: his best friend, a young man of faith, and how that shared faith had carried him through the unspeakable agony of performing the act no father in his worst nightmare envisions: not preparing for the eventual, inevitable day when he would be buried by his son, but rather burying his son. It wasn’t fair.
It still wasn’t fair, and never would be fair. It never will be fair. The racing world had demanded the rest of the world stop when its favorite son died at turn four of its most cherished racetrack in February of 2001, not ceasing its caterwauling over the single greatest tragedy in the history of mankind (or so it would seem given the never-ending maudlin sap parade at every race) until September 11th… and even then the meaningless tributes and ghoulish merchandising continued unabated. Meanwhile, Mr. and Mrs. Irwin grieved alone, politely ignored by the racing world in which their son had lost his life, a loss to which the response seemed to be “we don’t care.”
As I knelt down beside the marker and carefully rearranged the child’s bracelet, many emotions stirred deep within. Shame, at how callously and flippantly I had once viewed the men and women who risked death every time they strapped themselves into a race car. Resolve, a dedication to never again take these people for granted. The knowledge that it was no cliché to say I would never watch racing the same way again, now forever mindful of the very real, very fragile humanity behind the machines and high-speed competition. But above all else — far above all else — I felt a quiet emptiness at the realization, the full impact of the reality before me. This was no longer an image on a television or pictures on a Web page. This was cold, final truth. A young man’s body laid in the ground beneath me, a young man who loved to race cars that I watched every Sunday, cars of which I collected little diecast metal replicas. Now he was dead, and I would never see him race again. His family would never see him again. And no matter how fervently one believes in eternal life for those who believe, the quiet emptiness of loss remains.
I said goodbye to Kenny Irwin Jr., told him how by the grace of our God I hope to meet him in heaven one day, and asked him to forgive me. I then stood up as my brother said goodbye to him as well, and then we left, my brother and I. I felt shaken, yet I was okay with that. It was good to be shaken. For I had done what I knew I had to do.
I had done the right thing.
Saturday, February 11. 2006
It was nighttime at the zoo, a medium strength wind rustling through the bare tree branches, tossing about an occasional snowflake. Gord the polar bear was curled up in his small cave at the back of his home, mostly asleep but still glancing outside now and then in-between closing his eyes.
The day had been quiet, with very few visitors willing to brave the cold and wind in order to see the animals. Gord of course loved the weather, being a polar bear and all. Still, he did regret how it kept the visitors away, and how it made most of if not all the other animals burrow as far away from the elements as possible. Not having anyone to talk to or listen to was something Gord didn’t much care for. Some days, though, that was how it went.
He was almost all the way asleep when suddenly he stood straight up, almost hitting his head on the top of his cave in the process. Gord stood very still for a moment, then dashed outside where he sat down in the middle of his home, looking up at the sky and the snowfall which was now growing heavier. He sat there, not moving, as a smile grew across his face.
After a while, a sleepy voice broke the silence. “Gord? What are you doing, silly bear?”
Gord recognized the voice as belonging to his friend Cherie the thrasher, who lived nearby. Without moving to look at her he replied, “Why, I’m listening.”
“Listening to what?” said Cherie in return. “The only sound is that cold wind.”
“You mean you don’t hear it?”
Cherie shook her head. She was used to Gord’s occasionally being a little strange, but even by his standards this was quite weird. She sighed as she said, “No, silly bear. I don’t hear anything. So tell me what it is you hear.”
“Why, it’s the yesterday whispers.”
“The… yesterday whispers.”
Gord said in a quizzical voice, “You mean you’ve never heard of them?”
“I must have missed that lecture in bird college,” Cherie said in a tone indicating more than a little concern over her friend’s mental health.
“Why, I thought everyone knew about the yesterday whispers,” Gord replied in a way indicating he completely missed the way Cherie was talking. “Back where I come from, everyone knows about them. At night, when the pretty light curtains appear in the sky, if you listen carefully sometimes you can hear the voices from yesterday talking to you as if they were standing right next to you.”
“You mean the ones who aren’t here any more?”
“Yes. The faded ones. Only when the yesterday whispers come, they’re not faded any more. Oh, you can’t see them, and they come and go as they please. But you can hear them talking to you. Sometimes they’ll even answer you when you ask them something.”
Cherie thought about it for a moment, and then decided it would be best to go along with Gord on this one. “Must be a polar bear thing. And what pretty light curtains are you talking about? I don’t see anything.”
“We have them where I’m from. How I miss them, and until now I thought you had to have them in order to hear the whispers. But now, tonight, I heard them again.”
“Anyone you know?”
“Some, yes. Some I was told about, who were before me.”
Cherie softly said, “And what did they have to say?”
“Why, they were telling me I can come home anytime.”
“As in leaving the zoo and going back up north? I don’t know how you’re going to do that.”
Gord sighed. “No, not home like that. Although I’d like to. They were saying I could go home in my heart.”
“By remembering where you came from?”
“Yes and no. They said remembering was part of it. But they also said if you come home in your heart, it’s not just remembering. It’s alive right here and now.”
Cherie asked, “I don’t suppose they told you how to do this.”
“Not really,” Gord replied. “They said I’d find the way.”
“Is that all they said?”
“Why, no. They said one more thing.”
“What was that?” the thrasher said.
The polar bear stood up and turned to where Cherie lived. In a quiet voice he replied, “That they would be there when I get there.”
The two looked at each other for a moment, a look of friendship. Then Gord excused himself and went back into his cave.
Friday, December 23. 2005
Gord awoke to a most delightful sight that morning as he peered out from inside his little cave. It was snowing, beautiful fluffy flakes gently making their way down from the sky. A thin layer already covered the ground, and more was coming down. Exactly the kind of thing a polar bear wanted to see.
He quickly arose and went out, looking up with a smile as the snow fell on his face. Gord reached out with his front paw and playfully swatted at the flakes as they went by. For a moment he was home again, his real home, playing in the snow by the lakeside as his mother stood nearby. Then a voice interrupted his memory.
“I suppose you’re enjoying this.”
Gord looked down to see his friend Cherie the thrasher, shivering.
“Why, Cherie. I am a polar bear, after all. Snow is part of me.”
“Well it certainly isn’t part of me. Give me summer anytime, even the sticky hot days.”
Gord smiled again. “Why, we must get you out of this, then.” With that, he bent down and with his nose plowed a path to his cave so Cherie could walk there without stepping in snow.
Once she was inside, Gord stuck his head in the entryway and said, “I know it’s not much warmer in here than outside. But at least you won’t have snow falling on you.”
Cherie smiled. “Thank you, silly bear.”
“Why, you’re quite welcome. I’ll be back in a bit.” With that Gord turned around to romp in the snow, watching it fly out from beneath his paws as he smiled and laughed. He did so for a minute, and then looked across the walkway at the aviary, where he saw Penny the eagle and Scott the falcon giving him a look half amused and half… well, almost sad.
“Now, you two. Why are you looking at me like that?” he asked.
Penny sighed as Scott answered, “You are a strange one, lad.”
“Why would you say that?”
“Why?” replied Scott. “Look at you, man! Cavorting about as if you were running around your home and you didn’t have a care in the world.”
“This is my home, Scott.”
“No, lad. This isn’t your home. It’s where you’ve been put. Your home…. your real home… isn’t here. It’s up by that lake you mention.” Scott sighed as he added, “This zoo isn’t any of our homes, really.”
“Especially today,” Penny said in a sad voice. “So far from where we used to be. And those we used to be with.”
Gord paused and looked down, obviously in thought. After a moment he looked back up and smiled, then quickly turned around and went into his tiny cave. A few minutes later, Scott heard the cage door at the back of her part of the aviary open, with a startled looking Cherie being half-pushed through it. The door closed, and then a minute later opened again, with a fully startled Penny being fully pushed through followed by the face of a smiling Gord.
Scott quickly flew down to join the other two birds, all three of whom looked quizzically at Gord. Gord smiled again in reply, then softly said, “Why, you are right, Scott. None of us are really home. But as long as we’re here, this will be our home. Together. We will be each other’s family.”
The three birds stood there, not really knowing what to say. Then with a smile Penny laughed, “As long as you’re not expecting to be tucked in at night, Gord!” The four laughed together, their laughter for a moment making the day all right. Then each returned to their place, and Gord resumed romping in the snow as the three birds chuckled at the antics of this silly bear.
Wednesday, November 23. 2005
Gord sighed, his breath forming a brief mist in the crisp autumn morning. The zoo was closed. No visitors that day. He wondered what he would do, for on days like this there was precious little to do. Not that Gord had to have others around all the time, but he didn't always like to be alone.
His thoughts were interrupted when he glanced across the path in front of his home. The aviary long under construction appeared to finally be complete. Gord noticed that the homes for the larger birds were directly across from his. "I hope that doesn't scare my friend Cherie the thrasher," he said softly to himself. It didn't appear anyone had yet moved in, though. Too bad.
Gord started to turn around and walk toward his little cave at the back of his home for a nap when he suddenly stopped, as he thought he heard something inside the aviary. As best he could look past the tree located just inside this section of the aviary's front fence, put there with the thought being the birds would perch there so visitors could better see it, he tried to see what was happening. He saw a small door open at the back of the aviary. Then, a pair of hands holding something covered by a sack came into view. One of the hands reached on top of the sack and quickly pulled it away. Then both disappeared and the door clanged shut, leaving behind...
"Why, hello," said Gord to the bald eagle who after a moment of shaking their head and looking over their surroundings had flown to the tree branch in the front of their space in the aviary.
"Hiya," replied the eagle in an unmistakably female voice. She continued, "You must be Gord. Cherie told me about you. I'm Penny."
"I'm very glad to meet you, Miss Penny," Gord smiled. "It's good to see someone finally move in over there. And might I add, I could not have hoped for a prettier neighbor."
Penny laughed. "Cherie is right; you are a silly bear. But thank you. And this certainly a better home than what I had before. Still, it is strange to be moving here today."
"Why is that?"
"Don't you know what day this is?"
"Why, no. I was wondering why no one was here, though."
"It's Thanksgiving, Gord."
Gord was puzzled. "Thanksgiving? Wasn't that last month?"
Penny laughed again. "Not here. Today is the day when... well, when everyone gets together to have a meal and gives thanks for what they have."
"I see. Why, we should celebrate it, then."
Penny gave Gord a funny look. "You are more than silly. You've over there and I'm in here."
"Why, we'll have to change that."
Much to Penny's surprise, Gord walked to the back of his home and disappeared into what Penny figured was a small cave. To her even greater surprise, a few moments later she heard the door in her cage opening, followed by the sight of Gord's head sticking out. He smiled and said, "Why, hello again."
"But how... how did you get over here?" stammered Penny as she flew down to where Gord was.
"Why, I walked, of course."
"But how did you get out of your home?"
Gord smiled again. "Follow me and I'll show you." With that Gord pulled his head back and reached out with his paw to hold the door open as Penny carefully walked through. Now behind the aviary, she followed Gord a few feet to what looked like a large rock. He pushed it aside, revealing a tunnel.
"The zookeepers have many of these to get around," said Gord as he walked into the tunnel, Penny following behind. "Luckily, they're big enough for me, and the zookeepers don't know I know they're here." He chuckled a little as he added, "They also don't know the door to one at the back of my little cave only looks like I can't open it. And here we are." Gord pushed open a door, and after walking through his cave both Gord and Penny were in Gord's home.
"Over here." Gord motioned to his untouched meal. "Why, I'm not certain what these red berries are, but I hear they're very tasty. Please, try one."
"But then what will you eat?"
Gord smiled. "Why, I was going to skip today. There's a bit too much bear right now. Please, try one."
While cranberries were hardly Penny's dietary mainstay, for the sake of being polite she did try one. To her surprise, it was good. She looked up at Gord and smiled. "Thank you."
"Why, you're welcome."
Penny dipped down to eat another cranberry. When she came back up, to her surprise she noticed a worried look on Gord's face.
"You're not afraid I'm going to eat them all, are you? I'm done now."
"No, it's not that. Why, you may have them all if you wish. It's that... well... you're not going to fly away, are you? Nothing is preventing you."
Penny smiled. "Silly bear. I'm not going anywhere. I'd rather stay here."
"Why, that's wonderful... but wouldn't you rather be outside?"
Penny's smile faded as she replied, "No. But let's not talk about it now. Some day, perhaps." Her smile returned as she added, "Besides, I have my buddy Cherie here. And a silly bear, too."
Gord smiled in relief. "Why, that is so kind of you, Penny." With that the two headed back to Gord's cave so Penny could return to her new home, from where she and Gord spent the day chatting and laughing across the path Penny now knew didn't really separate her from her new friend.
Wednesday, November 9. 2005
Gord smiled as his friend Cherie the thrasher flew into his home. His smile quickly disappeared as he noticed the distraught look on her face.
“Why, what’s wrong?” he asked.
“Nothing,” she unconvincingly replied, her head down.
Gord knew better. “Come now. You can tell the silly old bear.”
Cherie smiled a little at Gord’s referring to himself with what she often called him. “Well… oh, it’s really nothing. Especially to you.”
“Why, nothing bothering a friend is nothing to me. Please, what’s wrong?”
“It’s not something I can do anything about, but… well, winter’s almost here. I imagine you’re glad for that, but it’s hardly my favorite time of the year.”
Gord smiled. “Actually, I don’t like winter either.”
Cherie looked up at Gord with a start. “But you’re a polar bear!”
“That I am,” replied Gord. “But you see, winter reminds me of where I’m from, and even with my friends here there are times I’d much prefer to be back there. Why, winter here is long and dreary, with everyone hiding or doing nothing the whole of the time. It’s much better during the spring and summer and fall, when people are about and active. Then we can all get together and share… well, whenever the zookeeper isn’t looking.”
Lowering his voice, Gord continued, “I must tell you, whenever I see him trying to shoo you away for being a common bird, it makes me quite upset. I fear one day I will completely lose my temper and address him directly about this matter, even if it means ignoring what I was always taught about not letting the humans know I can talk.”
“It’s not just me, you know. He’s rude to even the others that live here, even the birds.”
Gord nodded. “I know.”
Cherie smiled. “You know, except for those noisy bears next door, all the other animals think of you as something of a leader.”
Gord stared at Cherie, a stunned look on his face. “Why, that’s preposterous! I’m no leader. I’m just a bear.”
“A bear who defends his friends and speaks his mind.”
Gord uncomfortably shuffled his front paws. “Why… well… I don’t know. I’m just me. But if others take something worthwhile from that… why, I’m glad.”
“I’m glad too, silly old bear.”
Gord sat back on his haunches for a moment, lost in thought. Then suddenly, he smiled. “Why, I have an idea. We’ll beat those winter blues.”
“We’ll dance them away.”
With a puzzled look Cherie replied, “Dance?”
“Yes, dance. You and me. We’ll dance them away.”
“Silly old bear. How are we supposed to do that? I’m not exactly nimble on my feet, and even if I were you and I aren’t exactly built for ballrooms.”
“How? Like this.” With that Gord scooped up a startled Cherie in one of his front paws. Cradling her gently, he gently swayed his paw back and forth, occasionally bobbing it up and down while softly singing as Cherie laughed.
“You’re not a silly old bear. You’re the absolute silliest old bear ever.”
“Why, that I am,” Gord replied. “Yes, that I am.” With that he resumed dancing with his friend as he sang:
Your imagination’s having puppies
It could be a video for new recruits…
Wednesday, November 2. 2005
It was a grey afternoon; one mottled with showers spaced just far enough apart to offer hope of their ending before the next one came along. Gord the polar bear sat in the back of his home, looking out. He sighed, for days such as today kept the visitors away, and days without visitors were dreary indeed.
His face brightened as his friend Cherie the thrasher flew in and landed next to him. “Why, hello,” he said.
“Hiya yourself, silly old bear.”
“You must have me mistaken for Winston a couple of doors over.”
Cherie laughed as Gord smiled at his modest joke. “Make that very silly old bear.”
Gord feigned offense. “I’m not that old.”
“To me you are. Anyway, anything new?”
“I’m afraid not. Those bears next door are still such an embarrassment.”
“At least the really noisy one left,” Cherie commented.
“That’s true,” replied Gord. “Now they have a bunch more bears in his place. A couple of them are all right, but there’s this one who’s in his own way is as bad as the noisy one.”
“I know which one you mean -- the stuck-up one?”
“Exactly. He’s always acting so high and mighty, talking down to everyone. But when he thinks no one is looking, he gives these false apologies and acts all chummy. A little too chummy, really -- he says some very inappropriate things when he thinks everyone isn’t listening.”
“I know how that goes,” Cherie sighed. “Some of the animals here can be very condescending because I’m just a common bird. And a girl to boot.”
“Why, they don’t know what they’re talking about! There’s nothing common about you. You’re a wonderful, talented, attractive young bird.”
Cherie smiled and lowered her head. “Now I know you’re silly. But thank you.”
“I do hope the other animals don’t think we’re ignoring them or acting like those other bears when we talk together.”
Cherie laughed out loud. “With you around? Not a chance. You’d invite the zookeeper to be a friend given half a chance, even as much as he either ignores you or is rude toward you.”
Gord blushed, or at least came as close as a polar bear can to blushing. “I’m not that nice. But once in a while, I at least try to be.”
“Yes, you can be very trying, silly old bear… okay, the other silly old bear.”
Gord smiled as together he and his friend watched the rain start up again.
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